I was confused last night while watching the Billie Holiday biopic Lady Sings the Blues. For a reason I couldn’t grasp, Billie needed to win over public opinion in order to get a “cabaret card.” But surely, I told my wife, you never needed a license to sing, right?

Wrong. Here’s what I found out on Wikipedia:

New York City Cabaret Card

From Prohibition until 1960, New York City required “cabaret card” permits to be held by all workers in its nightclubs. Their administration was fraught with politics, and some performers’ cards were revoked on specious grounds. Those of Thelonious Monk and Billie Holiday were suspended due to drug charges…

I guess if the public needs to be protected from bad haircuts, it stands to reason that it also needs to be protected from stoned singers.